Ministry abounds in many places within our society and the bulk of the Australian population has some contact with such ministry – take for example church weddings, christenings, funerals, welfare agencies, play groups, fetes, education, sport, music, concerts.
Then there is a whole other list where the general public has contact with Christian ministry, the Christian agencies and chaplains associated with hospitals, ambulance, industry, commerce, executives, music, sport, military, fore brigades, SES, youth, aged care, juvenile, prisons, festivals, Service Clubs, Chambers of Commerce and a host more as well.
In 1982 one area that had not been tapped into for Christian ministry was professional sport, a major national industry if ever there ever was one. I'd attended an international sports mission congress in Hong Kong and having returned met with Heads of Churches in Sydney so as to establish, what became known as the Sports and Leisure Ministry (SLM).
Initially housed within the InterChurch Trade and Industry Mission (ITIM) where I was the industrial padre at Shell Australia it got it's own legs by late 1984 and remained unincorporated until 1988, six years after I had initiated this ministry.
Incorporation essentially legally protected the volunteer chaplains and each chaplain was required as a volunteer to raise their own funding as is the custom in mission, as we had been doing since its inception in 1982 and continued to do so.
Ten years later, 1992 our family relocated to Moruya on the NSW south coast to established Timeout in Moruya with a respite facility for Australian Institute of Sport elite athletes where we remained 'til December 2005 where for family (elderly parent) we relocated to Tweed Heads.
In 2000 Heads of Churches released us from the Sports and Leisure Ministry having served for 18 years in faith finance mission where we kept the ministries of the Australian cricket, Timeout in Moruya and our Olympic Ministry. In 2005 the continuing Sports and Leisure Ministry changed its name to Sports Chaplaincy Australia.
When I initiated this Sport ministry in 1982 and two years later was appointed the Australian cricket team chaplain, the Sports Coach magazine journalist Basil Worner from Perth wrote a feature article on my ministry with the cricketers.
One of the people who read that article was National and Victorian Soccer Coach (the late) Tony Dunkerley whose accolades are many beyond the pitch, as Junior Football Commissioner and President of Football Victoria and MD of a UK multi-national.
Tony Dunkerley contacted me and on my next trip into Melbourne we connected and he's partnered with me ever since. This partnership has included my 18 years founding and heading the Sports and Leisure Ministry to 2000 (in 2005 changed its name to Sports Chaplaincy Australia), and then continued with me as I established Well-Being Australia.
Another role he's played is as a consultant to the young writers and attends the various conferences where he brings a valued and thoughtful reflection. There are now 105 young writers who each write a monthly column in Christian Today.
Tony Dunkerley wrote that he was praying for me and our family (one of whom has undergone breast cancer surgery and chemo as did his wife some years previously) and said he was led to read John 15 ”The Vine and the Branches.”
“This pointed out to me the pathway that you have been on in your 41 year Ministry, how you have been the branches and have been able to create the right environment and the correct structures which has enabled many people to use their God given gifts and they have gone ahead and many of them bear fruit in your name and in the Lord's name.”
Tony Dunkerley was spot on - the right environment and the correct structures. My ministry mentor the late Rev F P McMaster MBE Canberra Baptist Church 29 years, ACT Baptist Superintendent (Bishop) after that - pumped into me over and over again, that in Christian Ministry, get the administrative structural foundations and philosophy right, then everything else follows.
That is, putting the correct structures in place so that people can then function in the right environment. That is classic 101 business and corporate wisdom and so too it needs to be for Christian ministry. For my ministry over all these years, it has been placing chaplains into professional sport (1992-2000) and now the young writers being published giving Gen Y a voice.
It is equally applicable now to the young writers ministry.
The Apostle Paul says for us to think of these things ... one of them was the word "lovely" – and how the late Tony Dunkerley describes this is indeed - lovely!
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html